ACLU Distributes Mailer in South Carolina Questioning Biden's Positions on Civil Rights

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sent out a flier in South Carolina questioning former Vice President Joe Biden’s stances on civil rights issues. The organization is targeting Biden and Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) with digital ads in the state because neither candidate has answered the questions the ACLU submitted to their campaigns.

“ACLU asked Joe Biden to answer a few questions about civil rights and civil liberties,” the mailer, which was obtained by The Hill, read. “Seven candidates who qualified for the next debate submitted responses… but Joe Biden hasn’t.”

It continued: “Does Joe Biden support rights for all?”

The flier was distributed on August 30 and a second mailer, also targeting Biden, is expected by September 6, ACLU Political Director Ronnie Newman confirmed to The Hill. The second mailer questions the Democratic frontrunner’s stances on voting and the criminal justice system.

“Where is Joe Biden on civil rights? On whether voting is a fundamental right? On whether the criminal justice system is broken and unfair?” the second mailer will reportedly ask. The ACLU did not immediately respond to The North Star’s questions about why it decided to send mailers to voters and why the mailers were focused in South Carolina.

However, Newman told The Hill that the mailers and digital ads are meant to press candidates to answer the ACLU’s questions. Newman stated that the mailers are not based on the candidates’ records or stances on issues.

“This initial phase that we’re in is purely focused on info collection,” Newman told The Hill. “What we are looking for is for each and every candidate regardless of party to let us know where they stand.”

The mailers and ads are part of the ACLU’s “Rights for All” voter engagement campaign that launched in March.

“The next president of the United States must be committed to protecting and advancing the civil rights guaranteed to all of us in the Constitution,” Newman wrote in a statement at the time. “It’s up to us to ensure those who are running make their positions clear and hold them accountable. The best way to do this is to make sure candidates are hearing from voters who care about these issues.”

Along with the Rights for All initiative, the ACLU announced in March it would not be endorsing or supporting individual candidates, but instead “asking them pressing questions about civil liberties and civil rights.” The civil rights organization also noted that it would be supporting volunteers, particularly in early primary and caucus states like New Hampshire, Iowa, South Carolina, and Nevada.

Biden, considered to be among the top-three frontrunners for the Democratic presidential nomination, has faced questioned on his civil rights record in the past. The former vice president and Senator Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) clashed during the first Democratic debate in June regarding his position on busing Black students to predominantly white schools in the 1970s.

“There was a little girl in California who was part of the second class to integrate her public schools and she was bused to school every day,” Harris said during the debate. “And that little girl was me.”

Biden pushed back on Harris’ comments, calling them a “mischaracterization of my positions across the board,” The New York Times reported. He later added: “I did not oppose busing in America. What I opposed is busing ordered by the Department of Education.”

The California senator, a Black former prosecutor, also criticized Biden for his support of the 1994 crime bill that contributed to mass incarceration.

Biden’s campaign does not touch upon many civil rights issues on his website, but he has released a plan on criminal justice. The former Delaware senator’s plan calls for reducing the number of people incarcerated and proposes tackling the racial, gender, and income-based disparities in the criminal justice system.

The campaign did not immediately answer The North Star’s request for comment on the ACLU’s mailers and ads.

National polls have consistently placed Biden as the frontrunner in a crowded Democratic field. The latest results by Real Clear Politics places Biden ahead with 30.1 percentage points. Warren trails behind with 17.6 percentage points and Sanders with 16.9 percentage points.

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various publications, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.